How to use timber sleepers for garden beds

Written by cody sorensen
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How to use timber sleepers for garden beds
Construct a garden bed from railway sleepers. (Volodymyr Kyrylyuk/iStock/Getty Images)

Even after a timber sleeper has been used on a railway line there are still plenty of years of use left in it. The preserving agents in the wood are excellent for ground contact situations like garden beds because the decay will be minimal from year to year. Bolts are the only hardware required for holding the timber sleepers together when framing a garden bed.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Shovel
  • Garden rake
  • 2 full-length timber sleepers
  • 2 half-length timber sleepers
  • Electric drill gun
  • Galvanised bolts
  • Wrench

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Level the area where the garden bed will be erected using a shovel to scalp the high spots and a garden rake to fill in the low spots.

  2. 2

    Ask a friend or family member to help move the sleeper timbers to the building area. The timbers can weigh up to 110 kg (240 lb) each. Bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back. Get more than one person to help move them if necessary.

  3. 3

    Lay the two longest timbers parallel to one another 1.3 metres (4 feet 3 inches) apart at both ends.

  4. 4

    Lay the two shortest timbers in between the ends of the two longest timbers to form a rectangle. This is the garden bed.

  5. 5

    Drill two pilot holes horizontally into the outer side of each of the two ends of the four longest timbers. Drill these holes 7.5 cm (3 inches) in from the ends of the long timbers and 10 cm (4 inches) apart vertically. Drill the holes a few at a time and then pull the drill bit out of the hole to allow the shavings to slip out of the drill bit grooves.

  6. 6

    Allow the drill to cool in between insertion and reinsertion. The pilot holes will go through the sides of the long timbers and into the ends of the short timbers.

  7. 7

    Place bolts into each of the eight pilot holes and screw the bolts through pilot holes until the long timbers and the short timbers are connected tightly together. Use the wrench to accomplish this. The underside of each bolt head should be flush with the outside surface of the timbers when complete.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a socket with a breaker-bar ratchet or an electric drill equipped with a socket to shorten the time it will take you to screw in all eight bolts using the wrench.

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